NFL Draft: Matt Barkley or Geno Smith?

NFL.com’s Adam Rank still assumes the best for USC’s golden (haired) boy, although he does acknowledge the arrival (and rise) of West Virginia’s Geno Smith. It appears that Barkles still sparkles. Through a quarter of a college year, Barkley and the Trojans have effectively erased themselves from the Heisman and BCS conversations, respectively. There is always hope that they can recover in either category, of course, but that would rely on Smith plummeting from his current trajectory and on teams like Alabama and Oregon dropping off the unbeaten chart.

The good news for USC, of course, is that they get a shot at Oregon at least once, and maybe twice. The bad news for Barkley is that he’s all of a sudden shooting from the hip. He’s drawing guns and firing bullets into the dark. He’s like the Japanese army in the opening scene of The Last Samurai, just shooting their rifles without guidance into a smoky forest.

Now, that may be a little dramatic.

Barkley has recovered from a tough loss to Stanford not three weeks ago, but he goes up against the tougher-than-expected Washington Huskies team this Saturday in Seattle, followed by any number of rotating PAC-12 competitors that will be tossed at them for the rest of 2012.

The tough part for Matt Barkley is that, while Oregon wins the division and Stanford churns out Indianapolis Colts starting quarterbacks, USC is still the team to beat. They’re still the team of Reggie Bush. They’re still the team of the 2000’s. They’re still the team that had been sanctioned for violating the NCAA’s rules and regs.

They’re still the Trojans, and Matt Barkley is still Matt Barkley.

Geno Smith has thrown 24 touchdowns and only one interception, and how he finishes December will determine his standing versus Barkley’s. Certainly, any team with their eyes on the Trojans pivot will be able to value loyalty to their minds over a sudden surge of West Virginia flavour.

It will also depend on which┬áteam gets that pick. Not everyone is Carolina, ala 2011. Not every team wants to bail on the rookie quarterback they’ve spent time developing.

Of course, Geno or Barkley will be valued over Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, but it’s not a clear-cut salisbury steak. The Kansas City Chiefs won’t be losing a lot of giving up on Matt Cassel, since they’ll have to go with Brady Quinn in Week 6 anyway.

“The Kansas City Chiefs have stumbled out of the gate to a 1-4 start with one of the main reasons being the struggles of quarterback Matt Cassel, who is now dealing with a head injury,” wrote Bleacher Report‘s Tim Daniels. “He should have to earn his starting spot back once he returns to full strength.”

The Jets? Well, maybe. The Jaguars? Yea, of course.

There are a number of places these guys will land, but they won’t be playing under big lights or in front of a lot of TV cameras. They’ll be the kinds of rookies we see throwing four picks in Week 1 of 2013, dismiss, and then find out finished the year strong with wins in Weeks 16 and 17.

Their future is front of them. It just depends on who gets called first. And, for once, the Heisman might not matter.